Liveaboard Diving in Darwin Island

What to expect on a Darwin Island Liveaboard

Named after the famous evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin, Darwin Island and Darwin's arch are the most Northerly and most remote outcrops of Galapagos. They sit 40 km/ miles North of Wolf Island and they both sit on the same mid-ocean ridge that makes the bottom topography and current streams so special around the islands. Darwin is incredibly small with only 1 km/ 0.5 mile above water.

When you are there, the island feels very remote and special with your only company being the Galapagos National Park patrol and research boats. Land visits to Darwin and Darwin's Arch are not allowed and only a very few liveaboard dive boats visit here. The underwater life is spectacular with an unbelievable number of hammerhead sharks, tuna, silkies, turtles and chances to see tiger and whale sharks.

On the island and the arch you can see red footed boobies, vampire finch and fur seals. The waters around the island are highly protected due to the number of sharks and other large pelagics at risk from illegal fishing. Darwin Island is also a common location for the Galapagos National Park to tag hammerheads and whale sharks which are passing on the ocean currents.

 

Daily Schedule

Morning

The day will start early with two morning dives with breakfast in between. After the briefing you will be dropped by panga tender in the area around Darwin's arch. All the dives will be done around the arch and where you are dropped will depend very much on the surface conditions and the current.

With high swell and very strong currents Darwin's arch is not for the faint hearted but it is absolutely stunning. The waters are thick with sharks, rays, tuna and during the whale shark season this is your best chance to dive with the giants. Dives normally last round 50-60 minutes and the aquatic show is so spectacular you might find the time seems to go very quickly.

Afternoon

If conditions permit you will have another two dives at Darwin. After lunch everyone will be straight down to the dive deck itching to get back in the water. Although there is technically only one dive site at Darwin you will find that the different routes taken by the guides will give you a new experience each time. The pangas will drop you at a different side of the arch and pick you up after your safety stop which with this many sharks and pelagics will no doubt be in the blue.

Evening

In the evening if the conditions are very good the boat might anchor in the shelter of the island but more likely it will return to Wolf Island for the night. If you sit up on the deck, there will be a chance to see dolphins and sea birds or you can enjoy looking over your endless shark videos instead!

Darwin Island Underwater

Darwin Island is one of those places where you could literally see anything! All the aquatic life you would feel lucky to encounter anywhere else is here in abundance. The current channels around Darwin are like a pelagic highway at rush hour. The rock reef and plateau at Darwin are a viewing platform to see endless schools of sharks and rays of all sizes. Hammerhead juveniles are particularly curious and the chances are good of a close encounter. Down on the sandy bottom is your chance to see hammerhead pups. They are carefully guarded by larger hammerheads and will shy away if approached.

Galapagos sharks are also around and who knew there could be so many turtles in the one place. During the season you have a good chance of seeing whale sharks and tiger sharks here so keep a keen eye out for those spots and stripes. As if all that wasn’t enough you can also meet passing dolphins, sea lions and even the occasional orca whale. Be aware the first sign of orcas is the sudden disappearance of all the other aquatic life. Most of the dives are between 10 and 25 meters making Nitrox essential to make the most of your time with the sharks.

Top Tips for Darwin Island

  • The conditions at Darwin are rough so be prepared for a negative entry from the panga.
  • Gloves are an absolute necessity, the current here his phenomenal and the barnacles are sharp.
  • Your 3-minute safety stop should be in the blue if at all possible, it is your chance to really get in the thick of the shark schools and maybe spot a whale shark too.
  • Stay close to your buddy and the group the current here is not to be underestimated and it is easy to get distracted by the marine life. You may even have to wedge yourself into the rocks to stop from drifting.

Getting to Darwin Island

Most Galapagos liveaboards stop at Wolf before sailing on to Darwin although this depends on sea conditions. Darwin is very exposed to the elements but liveaboards can shelter behind the island at anchor. The sail is only 40 km but it can be a spectacular journey if you keep an eye out to sea. Pods of dolphins and sometimes breaching rays along with numerous sea bird can be seen from the deck. Divers will always be dropped at Darwin's arch by panga tender and it can be a wild ride with high swell and wind waves the norm.


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Diving Darwin Island in avril on the Majestic Explorer